Streetwise Professor

October 29, 2013

The Sergeant Schultz Presidency? Or the Second Hoover Administration?

Filed under: Economics,Military,Politics,Regulation,Russia — The Professor @ 11:12 am

Both, actually.

The administration’s response to every one of the mounting pile of FUBARs is “Obama didn’t know.”  The latest: Obama didn’t know about impeding fiasco.  And he didn’t know that the NSA was collecting electronic intelligence on Merkel and other foreign leaders.  Add this to the IRS, Benghazi, etc., etc., etc.

This happens so frequently that it is becoming as regular a bit in the Obama Show as Sergeant Schultz’s “I know nothing! I see nothing!’ bit was in Hogan’s heroes.  Obama’s denials are about as plausible as Schultz’s.  It’s just not nearly as funny in real life.

As the fiascos mount, scapegoats must be found!  It is going to get very, very crowded under the bus.

The NSA situation is the worst, with Obamacare running a close second.  Sources within the NSA have claimed that the White House and the State Department gave permission for the surveillance of Merkel and others.  The White House denies, denies, denies, and points to a statement from the NSA to support the denial:

With the issue mushrooming into a major diplomatic headache between the U.S., Germany and other allies, the administration stepped up its insistence that Obama knew nothing, though it has yet to explicitly acknowledge that the snooping occurred in the first place. An NSA spokesperson said Sunday that agency head Gen. Keith Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true.”

Spare me.  That denial is so narrowly drawn that an amoeba could run laps around it in seconds. Taking it at face value, Alexander has never discussed this with Obama.  Fine.  What about any of the thousands of other NSA employees?  CIA employees?  His briefer (when he deigns to have a briefing)?  His briefing books (which Valerie Jarrett assures us that he peruses with god-like discernment).  Hasn’t been a mention of anything that Merkel said not from a public source that would make even the slow witted ask: “How do we know that”?  The specificity and narrowness of the denial seems to be a lawyerly evasion by the agency, and may in fact be so specific and narrow as to signal that yes, indeed the NSA informed Obama: what is left out is the elephant in the room.

This is a horrible situation.  Political survival instinct and Capitol Hill outrage and cowardice will produce a battle between the political branches and the intelligence community, from which the intelligence community will not back down, and in which it has some substantial advantages.  Information is power.  The Bush administration was wounded deeply by the CIA’s war against the White House.  This is a battle that Obama fights with extreme handicaps, but it’s a battle we don’t need period.  Better to just tell the Europeans to grow up, or to ignore them until the storm passes.  (The Schaefer piece provides an analysis of the reasons to monitor Merkel even before she became PM that echo those I made over the weekend.)

The health care situation is not much better.  Today’s storm, overtaking the ongoing website farce, is that the Obama administration knew that millions would lose their individual coverage once Obamacare went into effect.  The administration-sit down, because this may shock you-denies.  The know nothing! They see nothing!

So here’s the choice: either the people responsible for implementing and designing Obamacare failed to anticipate this consequence, which is devastating for millions of people, despite the fact it was eminently predictable, or it is lying.  Great to have choices, ain’t it?

With respect to predictability, it’s clear as day.  To “work” (on its own terms, not that working on its own terms is a good thing), healthy individuals have to be attracted to-or forced onto-the exchanges so they can be charged premiums that exceed the costs that they will incur, in order to subsidize those who impose more costs than they will pay in premiums.  Due to the nature of the individual insurance market, those who are able to buy on this market are likely to be healthy, low risk individuals: indeed, the inability of high risk individuals to get coverage was one of the reasons given for the need to implement Obamacare in the first place.  So the privately, individually insured represented a pool of people tailor made to force onto exchanges.

And how was that done?  By a bait-and-switch.  The Obama promise of “if you like your health insurance policy you can keep it” was supposedly implemented by grandfathering existing policies.  But the grandfathering rule was written so narrowly that any change in the policy-coverage, deductible, co-pay, etc.-negated the grandfathering.  So even modest changes that occur with regularity in these policies have led to mass cancellations of policies that are not grandfathered and do not offer the coverage mandated by the ACA, thereby creating a population of sheep to be sheared on the exchanges.

And speaking of ruminants, of course scapegoats must be found! And you guessed it: the insurance companies are being rounded up and rounded on, most notably by the loathsome, mendacious and incompetent Valerie Jarrett:

FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.

Get ready for the daily five minutes of hate.  Where by “five minutes” I mean twenty-four hours.

Wherever you cast your gaze, your eyes light on a debacle.  Consider that Russia is exploiting Obama’s inept handling of Egypt, where he managed the clever feat of getting everyone to hate him (no Cairo Speech II, I’m guessing-nor Brandenberg Gate II either):

Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering paying a state visit to Egypt to take advantage of frayed ties between Washington and Cairo and possibly gain access to Mediterranean ports, the Sunday Times of London reported.

Nearly 40 years of US policy up in smoke. The Choom Gang rides again.

The headline says it all: it emphasizes that Putin is exploiting the “US vacuum.”  That is the Obama foreign policy in two words: the second coming of the Hoover Administration.

Indeed, the appellation “Hoover Administration” is fitting in so many ways, because you know what vacuum cleaners do, right?

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  1. I never thought I would say this, but shame on comparing Hoover with O. Granted, Hoover screwed up as many policies as possible – Smoot Hawley being the worst, but he was a skilled engineer – a hard discipline – had shown himself a competent administrator in the food relief programs following the Great War, and actually accomplished a few things.

    To see the inappropriateness of the analogy, consider the Hoover Institute, and then imagine what an Obama Institute would be like: a freak show that would have embarrassed P T Barnum himself.

    Comment by Sotos — October 29, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

  2. AIUI the USA spends more just on Medicare and Medicaid than the UK spends on the National Health. While variable (highly so) in quality from region to region – it’s essentially a state franchise – it does at least cover everyone in some way for everyone, unlike Medicare etc which AIUI are means tested and available to a limited range of users.

    When you add in the additional spend on private health insurance, then the total US spend on health (*before* the costs of Obamacare) hugely exceed those of the UK.

    Exactly where does all this money go??

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 29, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

  3. See Seymour Melman’s model of the cost maximizing institution: his model was the Defense Department of the 60’s. The idea – somewhat simplified – was that the power, pay and prestige of administrators was a function of the resources they controlled, not their output either in terms of quality or quantity. There was no incentive for cost minimization in the system until some hard and fast externality intervened.

    The soup of regulation at State, Federal and regional levels, which is a field day for political lobbying and corruption (legal or otherwise), combined with the (political) inability to deal with the issue of rationing under ANY system produced this nightmare. O care basically adds to this chaos, which pays a lot of people very handsomely.

    This is NOT an ethical judgment on any individual or group, though thee may certainly be appropriate, but rather a description of the way a system behaves. Professor Melman, being a good socialist, got very angry at me when I stated that by nationalizing health we should simply be turning the Health car system into the Defense Department writ large.
    This process has already been underway since the development of Medicaid and Medicare, O care is simply an extension of this.

    Comment by Sotos — October 29, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  4. @Sotos-calm down! The “Hoover” refers to the vacuum cleaner, not Herbert J.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 29, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  5. Perfesser, advice taken, meds modifies accordingly!

    Comment by Sotos — October 29, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  6. Modified – boy these things work fast!

    Comment by Sotos — October 29, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

  7. …the administration stepped up its insistence that Obama knew nothing, though it has yet to explicitly acknowledge that the snooping occurred in the first place.

    “We do not have any Scud missiles and I don’t know why they were fired into Kuwait.”

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 29, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  8. Obama is plagued by the same “Not Me” invisible gremlin that bedeviled Billy in the Family Circus.

    Comment by Chris — October 29, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

  9. @Chris-So true. Or the Chuck Berry classic: “It wasn’t me!” (Though I strongly recommend this George Thorogood version.)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 29, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

  10. I am tired of hearing that Hoover was an engineer. He was a geologist, not an engineer. He probably was the first graduate of Stanford University in Geology (not engineering). The only presidential cross engineers must bear is Jimmy Carter.

    Hoover did have an amazing life. He was orphaned at nine and raised by his extended Quaker family and quite succesful prior to entering politics. He considered himself a progressive and many of his themes are echoed by the current POTUS.

    Comment by pahoben — October 31, 2013 @ 6:57 am

  11. @pahoben-A true classical liberal/conservative, Calvin Coolidge, detested Hoover in part because his activism and progressivism. He called Hoover “the Boy Wonder.”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 31, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  12. Sorry about the engineer bit, but he did work as a mining engineer in Australia and China ending up as a chief engineer, though trained as a geologist. In those days the distinction outside of academic circles and in the field was not as hard and fast as it is now.

    I share Coolidge’s feelings for Hoover: Progressivism as a whole was a retrograde movement, providing much of the intellectual fodder for the Fascist, Soviet and New Deal system: the National Industrial Recovery Act could have been drafted in Italy, Taylorism was (once he took power) a fetish of Lenin’s, etc. I am disgusted to say that out and out racists (real ones, in the sense the Nazis were) such as Margaret Sanger are still celebrated by our “liberal” establishment, POTUS included.

    It all boils down to the lust for power, the firm belief that one Knows better how others should live, and the willingness if not joy in using state power – violence, direct or implied- to force others to one’s will.

    Comment by Sotos — October 31, 2013 @ 10:20 am

  13. @Sotos

    The burden of professional guilt from Carter is sufficient without piling on others. 🙂

    Comment by pahoben — November 1, 2013 @ 6:31 am

  14. @mj-I do not associate any guilt, professional or otherwise to being an engineer or having any professional qualifications (or lack thereof. Mengele had two doctorates, I believe: not all are tarred who have an advanced degree (got yer back, Perfesser).

    As someone who studiously avoided getting one while spending a silly amount of money doing so, I came to the conclusion that the best measure of worth is one’s judgment, backed by some knowledge, a willingness to admit ignorance and curiosity. That and a willingness to work, and to try not to dictate to others what to do – unless one is willing to personally pay for it.

    Comment by Sotos — November 1, 2013 @ 9:00 am

  15. @Sotos Are you sure you wanted to address me? 🙂

    Comment by MJ — November 2, 2013 @ 4:15 am

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